Spartans Under Coach Garvey Prepare for Spring 2023 Baseball Season

Coach Jon Garvey (front center) managing a baseball game (Image courtesy of STAC Athletics).

Coach Jon Garvey (front center) managing a baseball game (Image courtesy of STAC Athletics).

Jeremy Silber, Contributor

The St. Thomas Aquinas Spartans baseball team opens up the 2023 season ranked third in the East, ahead of longtime rivals Molloy University and Queens College.

The Spartans head south to Myrtle Beach this week, where they’re scheduled to play LeMoyne College, Franklin Pierce University, and Southern New Hampshire University before returning home for the opener against crosstown rival Dominican University on March 15.

Leading the Spartans this season is manager Jon Garvey. Garvey grew up playing baseball in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and attended St. Thomas Aquinas College. 

While attending STAC, Garvey played catcher for the Spartans. After graduating in 2009, he decided to stay on as an assistant coach and is entering his fourth season as manager.

Though college baseball has some interchangeability, some key position players to be on the lookout for this season are; Andrew Jemison, Jack Guerra, Greg DiGaro, along with catchers Sean Lynch and Billy Minnet. 

Spartan pitchers Aaron Dona and John Archer are numbers one and two in the starting rotation after several successful years on the team.

The Spartans also have a number of talented young players coming up who will compete for jobs in the spring. 

“This year’s freshman recruiting class… was ranked ninth in the country for Division II and the 2023 class is ranked third right now in the country,” Garvey said. 

Garvey recruits players from all over the country. “We typically spread our recruiting basically within the metro area (New York), all the way to Upstate New York, South Jersey, and all the way out to Pittsburgh.”

Garvey has also pulled in players from Florida and New England. 

In the dugout, Garvey is assisted by Bench Coach Manny Del Rosario, a former minor league player who brings professional experience to the staff.  “Kind of a unique older voice in the dugout,” as Garvey puts it. 

John Michael Guarino handles the development and conditioning of the pitchers. Former Spartans Matt Johnson and Yanni Orfandis, class of 2021, are also on the staff. 

Johnson will serve as hitting coach while Orfandis is the baseball assistant.

The STAC program ranks among the top Division II programs in the east every year. The team has made it to the College World Series twice and the NCAA tournament seven times. 

They have also won four East Coast Conference championships, six regular season championships and two East Region championships.

Garvey was an assistant coach on the 2017 squad that finished third in the College World Series, with eight players going on to play professionally. 

Among the Spartan alumni who’ve played professionally are Mike Aviles (2010 Seattle Mariners), Frank Salerno (2013 Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks), and Chris Cepeda (2019, New York Boulders).

Garvey’s main goal as a manager is to develop talent both on and off the field. 

“With baseball, especially Division II, a lot of guys still have the opportunity to play professionally when they’re done,” Garvey said. “So obviously trying to help them with their professional goals in baseball as well as their professional goals outside of baseball.” 

Garvey tries to keep his players focused on the game ahead. “I know everyone talks about rivalries,” he said, “But our focus each day is [to] worry about the team ahead of us…Our focus is we gotta play LeMoyne.” 

He says it is also important for players not to get too far ahead of themselves.

“You play Queens and you’re not focused on Queens, that’s how you make mistakes and you lose games, because you’re too worried about the future rather than worrying about the present,” he said.

Garvey still loves the game even after all these years of playing and coaching. He remains a purist- there will be no bat flips or other antics on teams he coaches.  

“Everybody there is trying to win a baseball game, nobody is trying to worry about their ego,” he said.